A Street Cat Named Bob

I was drawn to this 2017 DVD because the title reminds me of the Vivien Leigh/Marlon Brando 1951 film adaptation of the play by Tennessee Williams called A Street Car Named Desire.

I am no cat lover; however, this movie is not only based on a true story but the protagonist is also a homeless street musician James (played by Luke Treadaway).

James is not just a busker but also a heroin addict. Besides dealing with  serious topics like drug addiction and the dangers of living on the streets, friendship, family relationships, hope and redemption, what I like best about this movie is that there are many songs (around 20?) written and performed by Treadaway. The author of the memoir on which this movie is based, Jack Bowen, also appears as one of the co-stars.



Jack Ryan : Shadow Recruit

I didn’t know what the fuss was about when this 2014 movie was shown in the cinemas, so I decided to watch it on DVD recently. I had heard that the character is based on one created by the author Tom Clancy, but not any book in particular. (I’ve tried reading a couple of his books some two decades ago, and I never went beyond the first page.)

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), a financial executive newly recruited by the CIA, is caught in a dangerous web of intrigue spun by his unsuspecting fiancee Dr Cathy Muller (Keira Knightly), a treacherous agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) and a Russian criminal Victor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who is also the director).

As a drama-thriller, the screenplay is good. The character of Ryan is well-depicted : intelligent and resourceful; he has a brilliant analytical mind but is a reluctant CIA man. The story is about his personal journey: how he tries to work out the right thing to do, the right way to serve and the best way to be a patriot.

After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Ryan, then a student at the London School of Economics, decided to join the Marines but a very serious spinal injury resulting from a terrible helicopter crash means he has to find another way to serve. It is at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre that he first meets Muller, a third year medical student assigned to be his therapist in his rehabilitation.

It is also at the hospital grounds that Ryan is approached by Harper, who enticed him by sending him back to school to complete his  doctorate, then join Financial Intelligence as an analyst and working in a series of private banks on Wall Street, where his position will be used to uncover funding for terror groups covertly. A large number of these funds is controlled by the tycoon Cheverin.

So Ryan has a reason to visit Moscow. And the audience gets to see the sights of this Russian capital, including the Domodeldovo Airport, the beautiful St Basil’s Cathedral, The Kremlin and the steps of Staraya Square. Cheverin has planted a sleeper agent in the United States: moving from Dearborn in Michigan (the St Uriel Archangel Russian Orthodox Church) to Philadelphia and to New York; and the physical confrontation between Ryan and this agent (played by Alec Utgoff) means there are scenes like a vehicle hijack, a crash into the East River and the detonation of a bomb with lots of stunts and visual and special effects. The team of camera operators and photographers did good work too. The two dozen originally composed music (by Patrick Doyle) also serve their purpose well in adding to the tension and action, drama and romance.

Educating Alice : Adventures of a Curious Woman

A friend bought this book during a recent trip to Adelaide, and passed it to me as she enjoyed it very much. I don’t think I like it as much because the Weiss typeface is too miniscule, which makes for arduous reading and I have a habit of finishing every book that I start.

I do not love to travel as much as my friend, though we both love learning and writing almost in equal measure. Each trip Alice made is recounted in a chapter – from Cooking at the Ritz to Dancing in Kyoto to The Mystery at the Old Florentine Church to Sense and Sensible Shoes to Havana Dreams to The Secret Gardens – that is a standalone piece. Even though I know this is non-fiction and a memoir of Alice’s travels and adventures, I can’t help but feel the lack of transitional or linking passages (like from Exposition to Development to Recapitulation in an opus like a Sonata, or even between the First and Second Subjects within a section). Without a formal structure, this memoir seems to me to be random ramblings.

On some trips, she writes about the tribulations she overcame to get there; on others, she starts further into the trip and works her way back. She does not follow a chronological approach within each story.

The only common thread is her memories and descriptions, be they about French cooking in Paris, Border Collie training in Scotland, discovering Jane Austen’s life in England, meeting with a geisha and a maiko, or Cuban architecture and art ; and how she takes the opportunity to connect with and learn from the people she meets along the way.

I do not think I would read another book by Alice Steinbach. 



I have never been keen on science fiction, so I do not know if this 2015 movie was ever shown in cinemas here; but because the lead actor here is Ben Kingsley I will of course watch it on DVD.

Damian Hale (Kingsley) is an extremely wealthy man. He is diagnosed with terminal cancer and has only a short time to live unless he undergoes a radical procedure called “shredding”, in which his consciousness is transferred into the body of a healthy young man (Ryan Reynolds). After the procedure, Hale, now called Edward, starts a new life in New Orleans.  He suffers hallucinations and starts to uncover Edward’s mysterious origin and learns about the organisation that will kill to protect its secret.

The movie is visually impressive – the opulence in Hales’ penthouse has a strong visual aesthetic; there’re a few scenes involving shootouts, punch-outs (kudos to the stunt team and the choreographer) and car chases at attractive locations (thanks to the location manager and cinematographer). Conceptually, I think it is crazy.

Big Little Lies

I so enjoyed Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret that I borrowed her Big Little Lies in Large Print, thinking that I’d enjoy it more because it would not be so strainous on my eyes. Alas, I thought wrongly.

Big Little Lies is a story about friendship, and I like the plot. Three women –  Madeline, Celeste and Jane – are at the crossroads of their lives:

Madeline is 40 years old and a force to be reckoned with. She’s married to Ed and they have two children: 7-year-old Fred and 5-year-old Chloe. She has a teenage daughter with her ex-husband. Ed and his new wife have moved to her neighbourhood and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Chloe.

Celeste, Madeline’s friend, is wealthy and beautiful and is mum to twin boys and married to Perry. She has kept a dark secret about her marriage for a long time.

24-year-old Jane has just moved into the same community with her son Ziggy “on a whim”. She also has an untold secret.

The children attend Pirriwee Public school and the story revolves round the annual School Trivia Night. What I did not like about this book is that the author chose to tell the story from Five Months Before the Trivia Night, Four Months Before the Trivia Night… … Five Days Before the Trivia Night … Eight Hours Before the Trivia Night … The Trivia Night … and A Year After the Trivia Night. I thought this would be more suited to a script for a TV drama series. Then, coincidentally, I found out from The Straits Times this morning that there is indeed a HBO series starring Nicole Kidman based on this book!

Perhaps due to personal experience, I was absorbed in the sections revealing domestic violence and rape. Violent relationships tend to become more violent over time. Every relationship had its own “love account” – doing something kind for your partner was like a deposit. A negative comment or slamming your wife’s head against a wall was a withdrawal. And : Domestic violence victims often don’t look at all like you’d expect them to look. And their stories always sound as black-and-white as you’d expect them to sound.

Another element that I liked was towards the end – did a tragic accident just take place, or is it murder? Then more secrets are revealed.

After reading two books by Liane Moriarty (one in normal font and this one in large print for seniors), I’ve decided that I need not take the extra trouble to scour for a large print version. Anyway, before I pick up another book by the same author, I would read one written by her younger sister, Nicola.

Love In A Flash


Sometimes I’ll think of you

In the quiet of the night

Then I’ll ponder to myself:

How deep is our love?

Maybe it’s the tears in my eyes

Maybe it’s the swell of the morn

Where thoughts most complex

Are buried most deep

Futile to feign not hearing

Because how could I bear it

If I let go of this chance

Even then, now or ever?

Something is stirring

And simmering in the air

Time has come and gone too soon

The first notes are spent

When evening turns to night then dawn

Is it everlastingness

As your warmth lingers

In infiniteness?

A place in my heart stays lit

With scars of joy and sorrow

Reminders of times we shared

An image of rhapsody

The Ottoman Lieutenant

This is another 2016 movie that I don’t recall was shown in the cinemas here, so I had to watch it to find out more. I gathered from synopsis on the back cover of the DVD that is is a love story between an idealistic American nurse Lillie Rowe (Hera Hilmar) and a Turkish officer Ismail Veli (Michael Huisman) during World War I. I’d never heard of these two leads, but that Ben Kingsley also stars in this movie means it is a must-see.

The opening credits come with Lillie’s voiceover: I thought I was going to change the world but of course it’s the world that changed me. The movie then pans to 1914 Philadelphia where Lillie listens to a presentation by Dr Jude Gresham (Josh Hartnett) about a medical mission in Eastern Antolia, after which she tells him of a man who was turned away from hospital because of the colour of his skin.

Two months later, Lillie is on a ship to Istanbul. The view of Istanbul is simply breathtaking. Kudos to the location manager and camera operator for showcasing the bustling market place, panoramic views of open fields and blus sky and beautiful landscape (day and night views) as Lillie travels with her escort, the military officer Ismail (Michael Huisman), to a remote site before arriving at the hospital on foot. Here, they meet Jude. The three will be entangled in a love triangle, and the biggest problem they will face is that Lillie is a Christian and Ismail a Muslim. Also, Jude’s mission is to save lives, and Ismail’s mission is to take lives.

Lillie is introduced to Jude’s mentor, Dr Garrett Woodruff (Ben Kingsley) and a young patient named Aghavni (Eliska Slansky). From these two characters, we learn about how the war is splitting the Armenians and Turks. There is also archival footage of the full-scale First War War in Europe.

Most of the music (though I couldn’t identify them) are simply beautiful – uplifting, inspiring or mournful as the scenes dictate. I love especially the cello solos besides the symphonic orchestra.

The hidden message seems to be that freedom is an illusion. People could seemingly share so little (like Lillie’s and Ismail’s forbidden love) and sometimes there is no choice (due to custom or tradition) and fate can be cruel, yet people really have a lot in common. Hopefully, peace will eventually return one day.